Our older daughter recently announced that she loved “scary books.” Since she has been known to stop reading books or watching movies midway through that she deems too scary, this was a bit of a surprise.
So began the search for a scary series just scary enough for her (i.e., not scary enough to produce nightmares, but scary enough to give her a thrill). As she is a full-fledged chapter book reader now, there are many options out there, the most obvious being Goosebumps. But just because she’s able to read something, doesn’t always mean I think she should read it just yet.
I’ve listed some of the books we’ve found that have fulfilled her “scary book” request. Enjoy!
Franny K. Stein series by Jim Benton
The main character is a mad scientist named Franny who is constantly designing and building intricate projects, such as the Shrinkerizer, the Time Warper, and Franbots. She struggles to fit in with her family and at school, with some surprising and comical results, but stays true to herself. Some of the topics and illustrations are creepy, but none are too graphic or gory. Additional comic relief comes in the form of her laboratory assistant, a dog named Igor. These books seem to have staying power, as our older daughter has returned to these books repeatedly, ignoring other new books on her shelves (or in the piles of books on her bed!).
Zac Power series by H. I. Larry
Zac is an undercover spy who has secret missions to carry out, alongside household chores assigned by his mother. He uses cool techy spy gadgets on each mission while narrowly dodging danger. The scare factor comes in the way the books successfully build suspense and keep the reader on edge. A note of caution: the books have been criticized for their gender division. In this series, male characters tend to be exciting and cool, while female characters tend to be villains or damsels in distress.
Scooby-Doo Mysteries by various authors, published by Scholastic
Scooby-Doo and the gang encounter creepy characters, such as ghosts, vampires, and werewolves while solving mysteries. The formula used for the TV show is also used in the books. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Scooby-Doo formula, spoiler alert: the creepy characters end up being people in disguise who have been scaring others, often in hopes of financial gain. The formulaic nature of the books also helps to keep the scare factor manageable. For readers looking for slightly less text, there are Scooby-Doo Comic Chapter Books published by Stone Arch Books.
Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey
A group of friends suspects that their everyday interactions are actually encounters with mythical creatures, such as having a vampire for a teacher. Some of the subjects are scarier than others, such as angels or Santa Claus versus zombies and werewolves. Our daughter found the first few she read interesting, then opted for other books. My impression was that this was due to the repetitive nature of the books and the low-level of scare factor.